03/09/2012

Cop Who Attacked Va. Medics Allegedly Reacted to Meds

    Mike Hixenbaugh and Sarah Hutchins Source: The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

        Follow up to original story here

March 09--ACCOMACK COUNTY -- Side effects from an antibiotic caused a Virginia Beach police officer to stab and shoot at two Eastern Shore firefighters tending to him after a car crash Sunday, the officer's attorney said Thursday.

Moody E. "Sonny" Stallings Jr. said Bradley Colas, 23, had been taking Biaxin for three days after going to a doctor for a respiratory infection.

Soon after Colas began taking the prescription drug, he began hallucinating and hearing voices, Stallings said. Colas even called his father early one morning claiming to see demons in his room, his attorney said.

Colas called a pharmacist and, later, a doctor about the drug's side effects, Stallings said. After six doses, he stopped taking the antibiotic.

"It was too late," Stallings said.

By Sunday, Colas was having "a full-blown psychotic reaction," his attorney said. He began driving north, up the Eastern Shore, heading for Pennsylvania.

"He said he had to get to Philadelphia to see Jesus," Stallings said.

According to Sgt. Michelle Anaya, a Virginia State Police spokeswoman, Colas ran his car off Lankford Highway in Hallwood around 7 a.m. and struck a tree.

When first responders tried to help Colas, Stallings said, the officer begged them to help him complete his trip to Philadelphia.

When firefighters got involved, Stallings said, Colas thought they were demons and tried to fight them off by stabbing and shooting at them.

"He thought they were evil," Stallings said.

Police said the firefighters fought back, hitting Colas in the head.

The Food and Drug Administration in 1991 gave the OK for Abbott Laboratories to sell Biaxin, or clarithromycin. The drug became available as a generic in 2005.

Initial clinical trials did not reveal mental-health side effects, according to the FDA, but user surveys since 2005 have shown that the antibiotic can cause disorders of the central nervous system, including "anxiety, behavioral changes, confusional states, convulsions, depersonalization, disorientation, hallucinations, insomnia, depression, manic behavior, nightmares, psychosis, tinnitus, tremor, and vertigo."

Psychotic episodes, while rare, usually ended when patients stopped taking the drug, according to the FDA.

Jay Levine, a pharmacist at the Atrium pharmacy at Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center in Norfolk, said he has dispensed Biaxin to more than 1,000 patients over the years. He's never seen it cause a mental disorder and believes it would be inappropriate to warn a patient of that remote possibility.

"I don't think I've ever heard of someone having any kind of hallucinations to the extent you're describing after taking any kind of an antibiotic," Levine said. "It would be very unusual. But, based on the postmarket research, I guess there is a once-in-a-blue-moon chance."

Colas' case is one of the strangest that Stallings has seen, he said.

"When I first heard 'This is a reaction to antibiotic,' I thought, 'Yeah, right,' " he said.

So far, however, doctors evaluating Colas have found nothing wrong with him, Stallings said. There were no narcotics in his system at the time of the accident, he said.

"He's as sane as you and me," Stallings said.

The firefighters involved in the incident were treated for their injuries, which were not life-threatening, Anaya said. Colas was taken into custody at Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital in Nassawadox, where, Stallings said, he was treated for head injuries. He has been in the hospital since the incident and was served with warrants there Wednesday, Stallings said. Colas faces two counts of malicious bodily injury to law-enforcement officers.

A bond hearing is scheduled for today in Accomack General District Court. Stallings said it is likely that doctors and family members will testify about Colas' prescription medication and strange behavior.

Colas is still employed by the Virginia Beach Police Department.

Copyright 2012 - The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.